Despite sinking more than N2 billion to upgrade the Kaduna International Airport (KIA), only about 35 per cent of flights are being attracted to it since March 2017 when the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) resumed operation.
Not even some measures put in place by the Federal Airport Authority (FAAN), including reduced servise charges, as incentives to airlines with highest frequent flights, per week, has improved the situation.
It would be recalled that the Kaduna Airport benefited from the six-week closure of the Abuja Airport, as it was upgraded to international status.
What has continued to pose confusion to observers is the fact that while NAIA runway was being repaired, over 100 local flights were taking turns per day at Kaduna, with official records indicating totaling over 3,533 flights and 170,150 passengers within the six weeks that the work lasted.
The same airport is said to be currently recording less than 35 local flights per day, with no single international flight since after re-opening of the Abuja Airport.
The airport, which Nigeria is putting forward as one the third facility before the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) during a certification inspection, billed for June 2017.
Already, the Ministry of Aviation has stated that it had another viable airport aside from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and the NAIA, for presentation to the international inspectors’ visit to the country soon.
One of the criteria for airport certification is the volume of traffic it records on international and local routes, periodically, and compliance to equipment acceptable type.
Nigeria has been working hard to have, at least, one of its over 26 airports certified by ICAO after the visit.
But Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, the spokesman of FAAN said the authorities were still hopeful that the low patronage being associated with KIA should not be a reason for its not being certified, adding that there are airports across the globe that have received ICAO certification based on the navigational aides in them.
“The latest upgrade of Kaduna and Abuja airports, has no doubt brought the two to any standard that the international organisation would want to use.
“Yes, it is not as if the airport was shut down after NAIA reopened. No! What we should realise is that the airport cannot continue to maintain the full capacity like it did during the diversion.
“Flights have been going there before the diversion and have continued after the reopening of Abuja airport.
“I’m aware that Ethiopian Airlines is considering direct flight from KIA to Addis Ababa. Investment of the Federal Government should not be seen as waste, because airlines will continue to fly into the airport, even now that Hajj operations take place from there”.
On what measures are being put in place to attract more flights to the airport, she said there is no hard and fast rule on what could be done apart from ensuring that passenger’s safety is guaranteed and their conveniences assured.
But some operators said apart from the pilgrimage period, at most seasons, only 50 per cent flight is recorded at the 26 airports in Nigeria in the past two years.
“Before March 2017, no fligt was allowed in Kaduna Airport as from 6pm, due to poor lightening of its runways and security-related issues, made worse by the often reported religious crisis in the state.
“What most airlines do is to book Kaduna-bound passengers with those of Abuja and have a shuttle helicopter service to ferry them to Kaduna the moment it is evening. And unfortunately, government has not done much to reassure operators that there has been much improvement on those issues,” said Mr. Johnson Adukwe, Chief Operations Officer of Peace Airline.
He added that some airlines were still reluctant to direct commensurate flight frequency to Kaduna airport based on security challenges.
However, the COO said flight improvement to any airport is a function of availability of passengers.
But others, who commented on the issue said it could have been worth the effort had similar resources spent on the Kaduna Airport been carried out at the Port Harcourt Airport.
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